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Northern Powerhouse blueprint response - we need commitments to rail upgrade say WYCA committee chairs

Responding to this week’s publication by the Department for Transport of a Blueprint for the Chancellor’s Northern Powerhouse and visits by ministers to transport schemes in the North West and North East, West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport Committee Chair Cllr Keith Wakefield said:

“I am pleased to see Ministers out in support of transport infrastructure for the Northern Powerhouse and reminding us of schemes that we welcomed when they were originally announced.

“However it is ironic that Mr McLoughlin and Mr Jones visited schemes in locations at either end of the trans-Pennine rail route, which they hailed as a key element of making the Northern Powerhouse a reality and then put on hold after the General Election. 

Frustration

“It is all very well for Treasury Minister Jim O’Neill to state in a letter to the press that he shares our frustration but we don’t need sympathy from Ministers. We need evidence of the Government's firm commitment to making the Northern Powerhouse a reality.

“West Yorkshire Combined Authority has developed a transformational, 10-year package of transport investments costing around £1.4bn designed specifically to support and encourage maximum economic and employment growth.

“Our planned projects including better road, rail and bus links and more integration between them are designed to improve access and enable growth at new development sites and existing centres. They will also open up land for much-needed housing.

“We are making good progress with these local schemes devised to encourage economic growth but for our region to achieve its full potential, we need Government to prove its commitment to the Northern Powerhouse and deliver infrastructure projects such as the currently ‘paused’ upgrade of the trans-Pennine rail route and electrification of other routes such as the Caldervale line through Bradford and Halifax and the line to Harrogate and York.”

Connections

Combined Authority Investment Committee Chair and Bradford Council Leader Cllr David Green said: “Business leaders from across the City Region have made it clear that they are convinced of the need for better connections across the Pennines and concerned about the delay of the route’s electrification.

“As Andy Clarke, Asda CEO and member of the Prime Minister’s newly-appointed Business Advisory Group, has said ‘creating the right environment for businesses to invest and expand in the north of England is vital to creating a balanced economy’.”

“I am sure that Mr Clarke and the business community will agree that reassurance that this ‘pause’ will be temporary and brief is essential to creating that right environment and to the government meeting its stated commitment to rebalancing the economy and narrowing the North-South divide.”

DfT's Northern Powerhouse blueprint (opens in new window).

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